More than 1,400 miles of nonstop running at Fort Gordon came to an end Thursday with a solemn ceremony and the crack of rifle fire.
The Marines and sailors who have been circling the 3-mile track around Barton Field in honor of fallen comrades were joined for the last lap by more than 100 members of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
Together, they snaked around the track, a rainbow of colors and standards, with the Marines leading the way, bearing Old Glory and their scarlet-and-gold eagle, globe and anchor insignia.
As they rounded the last bend, one Marine in front peeled away and ran to the firing detail waiting in the wings of the Barton Field band shell. In his hand was ammunition, which was handed off to every runner who participated in the 10-day run. Each branch of service came to a stop in front of the band shell. Marine Maj. Richard Anderson was among the officers who made remarks from the podium.
Anderson said he reminded his Marines before the tribute began at noon Nov. 1 that this was a solemn occasion. The pace was slow; no cadence was given.
“It’s a funeral march,” he said.
Each lap was in honor of three of the roughly 1,420 Marines and Navy medics, called corpsmen, who have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maj. Clinton Armstrong commended his men and women for sacrificing their time and energy to prove the legacy of the Marine Corps, which celebrated its 236th birthday Thursday. But, more important, the run preserved the memory of the fallen Marines, he said.
“Thank you for proving their legacy was not in vain,” he said.